Second Chances in Life


2012 sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens on the 7th February 1812 in Portsmouth. Accordingly there will be a surge of interest in the great writer. Claire Tomalin has written the definitive biography of Dickens and in a recent article, Ignorance and Want, in the Guardian Book Club series, edited by John Mullan, demonstrated the continuing relevance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to today’s world

Scrooge, the main character, is given the chance on Christmas Eve to change his embittered, cold and miserly approach to life: a product of his unhappy childhood. He is visited by three ghosts, Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.  The ghost of Christmas Present introduces two ragged, destitute, wolfish children, a boy called Ignorance and a girl called Want. They are the children of Man. The spirit evokes Scrooge’s own earlier words, in response to a question from Scrooge about the children, “Have they no refuge or resource?”, when he replies “Are there no prisons…are there no workhouses”. Tomalin reminds us that such an exchange could take place in today’s unequal society and at a time when the government tells us that we are “all in this together.”

I read the story on Christmas Eve in front of a roaring open fire at my mother’s house as I spent my first Christmas as a(nearly) divorced person, apart from my (soon to be) ex-wife and 24 year old daughter who had chosen to spend Christmas with neither of her parents. I had not read any of Dickens’s works before, not good for an aspiring writer!

A Christmas Carol is an inspirational and evocative work written by Dickens in response to the unremitting poverty of life in London in the 1840s. Scrooge is a good example of someone who earns a second chance in life by adopting a new positive outlook and facing up to personal challenges. I can relate to this and I have certainly had many conversations over the past couple of years with my own personal ghosts of past, present and future.

So as we enter 2012, I have survived my first Christmas in my new life, surrounded by my extended family, if not my immediate one. The Christmas Carols that I have been listening to have had a subdued feel.

Hopefully, like Scrooge, at the end of his story, I shall have no need for “further intercourse with Spirits” in my quest to become a writer and change my life around.

6 thoughts on “Second Chances in Life

  1. All the best for the New Year Paul – hope it’s a happier one for you.

    Scrooge would be being disproportionately punished in this recession, while the profligate over-borrowed are protected – is that what you were trying to tell us?


    PS Thought you might appreciate a reply, even from me 😉

    • Jon

      And a belated Happy New Year to you,Paula and Grace.

      The message of the piece is that Dickens lived in a very unequal society as we do today.Those in power today, in a similar vein to those in power then, do not care about tackling this inequality and instead strive to maintain it. It is called Caring Capitalism I believe.

      Bit like the Premiership really, those that have rise to the top ( including my lot), the poor have nots in the far reaches of the country, well, eventually they sink down to their rightful place.

      Carry on commenting!


      • I suspect “those in power” believe there are many worse things than inequality. Once we are all equal – what next?

        The point I was making is that those who have saved are being punished by the inflation used as a weapon to remove national debt. While those on benefits, or index-linked pensions, are being protected.

        Hope you are enjoying the course – you are welcome to come visit if you need a break.


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